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Does this 1712 Swedish almanac tell us when the Bills will win?
Posted: Tuesday, 12 August 2014 12:30PM

Buying into Bills is, as usual, a tough task

It's been an interesting off-season. The Buffalo Bills are about to be owned by someone other than Ralph Wilson -- unless you include Tom Brady -- for the first time since their inception 54 years ago. Their first-round pick, Sammy Watkins, is the rare Bills player of the 21st Century to gain national approval as a star-in-the-making. Their stadium is undergoing major renovations; my view from the press box will now be in an upper corner, the Bills turning the old workroom into prime seats for fans, as it should be.

There's been a lot to talk about. Times are changing.

I just wish I could tell you that I think times are changing on the field too.

Right now I can't.

Neither EJ Manuel nor Doug Marrone has convinced me that they're, as we say in analytics, "above replacement level". And in case the term isn't self-evident, simply being above replacement level isn't exactly being a star.

Every fan knows how important quarterback play is to a team's results. Bills fans have to had to hope all off-season that Manuel takes a step forward -- from "average for a rookie", at best, to competent, or even good. Hope for our quarterback, again, is the best we can do, because evidence is scant.

One of these years fans might enjoy entering a Bills season not having to hear that their quarterback is the worst in the league. In more than one place.

Manuel has to make jumps in several key areas. He has to be more willing to let plays take their course, and not settle for a dump-off option to avoid getting hit. At the same time he has to be more willing to throw passes to his best receivers, namely Watkins. The Bills must overserve Watkins this season considering the price they paid for him or risk the pick seeming dubious. Manuel also simply must make more good passes than he has; it's one thing to read the play right, it's another to deliver the ball.

When I've watched Manuel at training camp this year it strikes me how few perfect throws he makes. In my opinion he does not impress on the level of a franchise quarterback.

He also consistently talks about how well it's going, this preseason, this camp. I hesitate to criticize him for that because if he sounds down on himself then that's not good either. But Saturday morning after his offense put up but up but a field goal Friday night in Carolina I heard Manuel pump up the performance and I'd had enough. "Well we scored three points in three possessions so how do you think I feel about it?", or words to that effect, would be nice to hear, I admit.

Of course every player benefits from good coaching, so Manuel could use Marrone to know how to handle him, and Marrone's staff to know how to teach him.

At this point Marrone has not convinced me that he's a cut above.

One week ago Marrone's short answers with media came to reveal that he was dismayed over the loss to the Giants in the preseason opener. This, of course, is madness. There is no correlation between preseason and regular-season records. Does Marrone think he can establish some sort of winning attitude by having his soon-to-be-cut third-stringers close out preseason wins? If he does this speaks to incompetence.

On gamedays last year Marrone for me was a frequent disappointment. Every year it's the same point: The small-market Bills are an inherent underdog in the NFL, against big-city rivals, against teams that are made at quarterback, or both (New England). So do they avail themselves to advantages suggested by data and game probabilities? Of course not.

The 2013 Buffalo Bills led the NFL in punts. (And it's not because they were good at it. They were 27th in yards per punt.)

I'd be in a better place with this upcoming season if I felt the Bills had an organized plan, but as often happened when Wilson was alive I look at their off-season moves as scattershot.

Win now? Or even win now, in italics, as in how Peter King interpreted Doug Whaley's emphasis on the word 90 minutes after the Watkins pick. Fine, let's do it. If this had been the plan though, why not pay Jairus Byrd? Heck, it's bad money they might say but we're here to win now. And go ahead and keep Stevie Johnson while you're at it, rather than have him account for $10.225 million in dead money. You don't even have to play him, but you'd have him for insurance. Isn't that what win now does?

How about at quarterback? Attempting to grow with Manuel after his performance last year isn't what win now does, it's what win later does. Win now signs Michael Vick maybe. What's Cleveland doing with Rex Grossman while having Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel in camp? I don't much like Grossman but it's at least a gesture toward doing the most you can do. Now.

I wish I knew what Whaley really thought of all this. The more he's been confronted with this win-now business, the more he's backed away. In this article, Whaley says everybody is trying to win now. So who knows?

Win now, win later, win someday. Please.


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People : Ralph WilsonSammy Watkins
08/12/2014 12:35PM
Buying into Bills is, as usual, a challenge
Please enter your comments below.
08/12/2014 1:24PM
Really Smart!
Mike, I must say you are so smart. Like, you're the smartest person in Buffalo sports media. I mean, the way you think logically and analytically is so impressive. You impress me every time you speak. After all it was you, the first person in Buffalo, to begin having the conversation about analytics in sports. What's it like being more intelligent than everyone?
08/12/2014 1:42PM
"All In"
The "win now" hypocrisy is what stands out. EJ may be an OK quarterback. He wasn't horrible last year, and this season he's got a ton of talent around him. He might be fine. Marrone can prove he's the guy this year just as easily as he can prove he isn't. But the "win now" talk is just horsepoo. They traded Stevie for the guy who will take over for Spiller next year.. not now. They let Byrd walk. They didn't even try out some veteran help at QB. Vick, McCown, that Harvard guy, etc... if you're "going all in", having a legit backup QB is a reasonable thing to consider.
08/12/2014 1:53PM
Did Schopp just comment on his own article?
Because "Really Smart!" just swung on his nuts so hard I thought it was a setup to catfish him or at the very least, extreme sarcasm. Mike Schopp the smartest person in Buffalo sports media? Joe Buscaglia anyone? Schopp is consistently the doucheiest, I'll say that...
08/12/2014 2:00PM
Before you talk about someone else being above replacement level
How about working "being above replacement level" yourself. That might be a good place to start.
08/12/2014 2:24PM
I definitely don't think Manuel has what it takes to be an NFL starter and we will continue to be a 5-7 win team , as far as Marrone goes , we need to see what happens this year.
08/12/2014 2:30PM
Good Article
Well written, I think many Bills fans feel the same way
08/12/2014 3:25PM
Smart Maybe? Optimistic not!
You might have all the answers but I would have to say faith and hope are not your strong suit.
08/12/2014 3:31PM
Really Really Smart
Mike is so smart, that there is no point in his speaking about any subject other than himself. How could anything else possibly be of any interest to anyone? He doesn't do so on the radio, and he doesn't do so in his writing. And he is so smart that he can make up his own rules about English grammar, and ignore the ones those other dumb slugs are expected to observe. And he's so smart that he never has to do any research or preparation for his program, since he's already so well-versed in the only subject he discusses, the only subject that matters—himself. His readers and listeners are truly unworthy of the treasure they're blessed with. Just ask him.
08/12/2014 3:48PM
Schopp I finally agree with everything you said here. Unfortunately for us, all it means is a 4-12 seasons without a first round draft pick next year.
08/12/2014 4:16PM
Just an embarrasment! Poor Buffalo has to listen to this guy!!!
OK Mike let's start at the top. 1. You can't say "As We Say in Analytics" unless you are in fact an analytics expert. It's like me saying "as we say in law school" if I'm a mailman and never attended law school. So that's just ridiculous statement. 2. You say "Every fan knows how important quarterback play is to a team's results" simple reply is Marc Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Alex Smith, Matt Hasselback, Matt Cassel, Chritian Ponder/Joe Webb. All of which are below average, all of which have led their teams to the playoffs. Most of them got in with a simple PLAN great Defense and a great running game. Sound familiar to Whaley's PLAN. Of course it does, but I wouldn't expect a 3rd rate reporter to see that. 3. You rag on Marrone for being visibly upset about a pre-season loss, you poke fun as his belief that winning in pre-season could possibly transfer to the season. My question is simple? Where has 14 years of coaches down playing Pre-season gotten us? So he's trying something different, he's trying a different tactic to show his team losing at anything is unacceptable, how dare he!!! But then again, you're the type who would be ripping him to shreds if he came out and said "hey it's only pre-season" wouldn't you? 4. I love the no plan line. Just because your not smart enough to see the plan doesn't mean there isn't one in place. It's quite evident what there plan has been. Back in 2010 it was to build the roster and the depth, eventually get their franchise QB (which remains to be seen) build an top 10 D and a top running game. If you'd actually pay attention instead of constantly looking at everything negatively, maybe just maybe, a poor excuse as a football writer would have noticed it. Maybe you would have noticed that we have the ingredients that Marc Sanchez, Alex Sith, Matt Cassel, and all those other non- franchise QB's had when they went to the playoffs. We have the top 10 D and the top 5 running game. Manuel needs only be average to make the playoffs, but of course to the everyday fan like yourself, if Manual doesn't throw 38 TD's and 4500 yards you think he stinks... Will it all work out? No one knows for certain, but to sit there and write this garbage is asinine. It's an abomination to any fan who actually understands the game of football and not just the high profile names on the back of jerseys and fantasy points. You my friend are and always have been a joke!!!
08/12/2014 4:27PM
One of the great minds of the twenty-first century
Mike Schopp's brilliance humbles us all. I see it as something akin to Galileo bravely defending heliocentrism, despite the persecution he suffered at the hands of the ignorant majority. Hopefully one day soon we will all catch up to Schopp and be able to truly appreciate what a honed and beautiful mind he possesses. Just kidding, he's a complete and utter douchebag.
08/12/2014 4:40PM
I wish I could be so smart
My brain simply isn't above replacement level unlike the author's.
08/12/2014 4:58PM
Of Course Schopp would take Tannehill and Dalton
Mediocre talent recognizes mediocre talent. Sure, those two quarterback's can put up decent in-season numbers, but what exactly does that mean? Nothing. At the end of the day they're still mediocre talent.
08/12/2014 5:34PM
Cool, guys
Wow, I hope everyone here feels better about themselves today after completely bashing the author for, you know, doing his job. I don't think EJ is going to lay 16 eggs for us this season. What I'm worried about is that he is pretty much the same as last year - uneven, and possibly injured for part of the season. In that scenario, I believe he will get the seemingly obligatory shot at his 3rd year, but it will probably be time to start thinking about how we can be a contender in 2016. I don't believe our defense and running game will ever be good enough to get us there without a top tier QB. We've had a lot of great RBs and defenses here since 1999 and we haven't managed to get there with a sub-par QB. I think that is the rule, and Sanchez/Tebow are the exception. And if that really was "the plan" here I still don't get the reason for not paying Byrd. Letting him walk was a big mistake either way, in my opinion.
08/12/2014 6:07PM
It makes no difference
The guys we have making decisions aren't difference makers..Trading your future for a wide receiver to hopefully get lucky and make yourself look smart with new ownership won't save their jobs....Let's face it they gave away a single digitpick! I love me some Ralph but let's be real...New ownership isn't going to pay over a Billion$$ And let someone half a$$ it! They will all be memories this time next year...
08/12/2014 6:37PM
Didn't read it
As soon as I saw the name who wrote this, I didn't bother reading it. Schopp is an idoit!
08/12/2014 7:43PM
Need I say more? Very surprised this guy hasn't been fired yet. When will that happen. Give this douchebag his pink slip NOW!
08/12/2014 8:52PM
God, please
I hope this idiot "IS NOT" doing Bills post game shows again this season. The same goes for the stuttering machine being loaded after the games. Yes, the Lazy Lakes drunkard Bulldouche. Please don't let that happen this season. There has to be alternatives.
08/12/2014 9:39PM
I'll second the above comment
Haven't listened, and won't listen to this douchebag, in over two years now. Kinda miss listening to Bills talk in the afternoon, but not at the expense of hearing myself and all other listeners being reminded how far below the great one we areon the intellectual scale.
08/12/2014 10:26PM
Over the top
Seems to me most of the comments just want to put down the writer. It doesn't matter what he says the rhetoric is always the same. I can understand why Paul H. doesn't allow comments on his stories, most of you don't have an intelligent point to add anyway.
08/12/2014 11:43PM
Mike Schopp is kind of mean
Not sure how much football Mike Schopp has played or coached, but he seems awfully critical, not only of the Bills, but often his listeners.
08/13/2014 4:02AM
Wow! Its not that bad...I don't think
Wow, I was going to say that Mr. Schopp's article made some valid points for consideration but that it was written so shabbily that it took away, significantly, in my opinion, from those points. There are multiple typos, particularly in syntax. They seem to show that he either does not take the time to re-read his final work that he presents to the readers or that he arrogantly does not care what the readers think. That in my opinion, is something he needs to address if he wants to be accepted as a reporter and not just a mouthpiece. But after reading these other comments, I must say, whether one agrees or not, that he makes some valid overall points about Manuel, Marrone and Whaley (sp., i.e., the organization). I don't agree with some specifics but I too am concerned about Manuel's ability to not only be a franchise quarterback, but merely to be a serviceable first string quarterback. Marrone simply seems to be over his head and the removal of two of the three best players on last years team for a bag of pucks does nothing to bring me any confidence that this management is any better that what we have had in the past 14 years to win now or to win at all. So, his points seem valid. In general, they seem to be areas of legitimate concern. But Mr. Schopp, you need to care about the readers of your columns before they will begin to care about you or respect your work. Unfortunately, when the FCC allows competition to be eliminated within markets and lets one large entity to own all the major radio outlets, I guess there is no need to try to be your best. Too bad. You have potential. As for the Bills, ultimately they have stunk the place up for so long I don't even watch most of their games on TV let alone go to games anymore. So, if they continue to stink, it will just add more reasons to go out with my family on Sundays to the science museum or maybe even go to church.
08/13/2014 6:56AM
Oh look, Shoopie being negative
Imaging that, and unimaginative and negative opinion by our resident football hater. Do you and Sullivan snuggle every night while thinking of new ways to complain?
08/13/2014 9:40AM
Too many question marks to say they are better
Aside from the obvious questions at QB...it's a crapshoot as to whether Manuel will pan out and Jeff Tuel is the worst QB in the NFL even among backups...there are questions everywhere on this team. The defense is poised to take a gigantic step back this season and may turn out to be one of the worst in the NFL by the time the season is all said and done. I say this because while the front 4 should be very good again this season, the secondary is subpar. I don't think a lot of fans really understand how much of an impact losing Jarius Byrd will have. Chris Brown proved himself to be a fool by saying back in June that Aaron Williams overall will be an upgrade back there. Aaron Williams would struggle mightily to crack the starting lineup of any other team in the NFL. Stephon Gilmore just continues to not impress, is injury prone and under whelms. It's highly doubtful he will ever emerge as a top CB in the NFL. Kiko Alonso is perhaps the biggest loss for them overall. Byrd leaving and Alonso lost for the season to injury makes this a defense that was #2 in turnovers last season to one that has a great chance of being dead last in the NFL at forcing turnovers. Pass defense is the most important element to stopping teams in the NFL today. If you are not good at that then overall a team's defense is likely to be bad. The Bills pass defense may just end of being the worst in the NFL this season. There are also O-Line questions. If Cordy Glenn can't get healthy soon, then the O-Line goes from looking very solid to very weak and porous since they don't have the depth at tackle (I know Henderson is having a very good camp but he is a right tackle and not a left). Looking like 4-12 in 2014.
08/13/2014 1:10PM
Just when I thought....
You couldn't be any more of a negative D-bag this goes and happens.
08/13/2014 1:21PM
I think the smart guy needs to proofread his work before posts his articles
"Bills fans have to had to hope all off-season that Manuel takes a step forward..." "But Saturday morning after his offense put up but up but a field goal Friday night in Carolina..." This guy is a genius. My favorite part is the reference to Cleveland signing Rex Grossman. Nothing sounds more like win now then signing a career clipboard holder.
08/13/2014 4:11PM
I am going to pin this and review it at the end of the season when we are getting ready for the first playoff game in 14 years. How anyone can complain and call us a 4-12 team clearly hasn't seen the trenches get built up, playmakers added and youngguys mature. I'm ready for the season!
08/13/2014 9:59PM
Re: Over the top
Another idoit.
08/14/2014 12:52PM
Re: Over the top
08/14/2014 3:34PM
Re: Re: Over the top
"Another idoit."....You typed a two word comment and misspelled half of it. And you (attempt) to call someone else an idiot... Schopp is welcome to come back to Rochester anytime he wants. And he can restart the "sports talk for smart people", that he had to give up because wgr listeners wanted no part of it.
08/19/2014 7:57AM
08/23/2014 9:01PM
need a change
Fact of the matter is, there is a HUGE alotment of WGR listeners that can't stand this guy, so how does he keep his job? I will take silence over subjecting myself to his boorish, arrogant attitude toward the people he should be conversing with. I no countless people that would love a chance to punch Schopp, myself included.
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